Dropping her handicap by more than her age, Samarah Gibson has loved having an Australian Golf Foundation Junior Girls Scholarship over the past 12 months.
“Since her scholarship experience began, Samarah’s game has transformed from a hit-and-giggle to being one of the most active juniors at the club,” said Aaron Keevers, PGA Professional at Wollongong Golf Club.
Hit-and-giggles it was – hitting her first golf shot at age eight in a Mickey Mouse shaped bunker at Ko Olina Golf Club whilst on holidays in Hawaii.
Following her first exposure to golf, followed by some lessons, Gibson had a forced break from the sport due to injury but then returned at age 15 and has never looked back. She now regularly plays in club competition, enjoys lessons and squad training, plus attends tournaments such as the Jack Newton Junior Golf series.
Ending 2021 with a handicap of 35, the now 16-year-old Gibson has drastically improved her game to lower her mark by more than a shot per hole to just 14. She is now a terrific role model for younger girls and juniors at the club.
“It is pretty cool to be seen as a role model,” remarks Samarah. “It is good to show girls you can start golf young or in your teens.”
Samarah gives kudos to Keevers and the Australian Golf Foundation for her development saying “I couldn’t have done it without the scholarship program. I’ve had such a great time making new friends and improving my golf. I have learned a lot about course management and how to get out of tricky situations. The support means a lot to us all.”
Gibson is not the only girl flourishing with the scholarship opportunity, Keevers is thrilled to see “all five girls build their confidence”.
“The scholarship program has been outstanding,” he said. “The five girls feel comfortable with their surroundings and now regularly compete on a Saturday or Sunday.
“All of them now have handicaps and I am looking forward to continue working with them to build upon this confidence and improve their golf.”
Keevers also holds confidence that the club is well on its way to achieving the objective of increasing the percentage of female members from 19% to 23% in 2023.
Along with the scholarship program, the club is running a series of programs and initiatives targeting girls and women.
“We are running MyGolf (including MyGolf girls-only) programs to attract girls and Get into Golf for women,” Keevers said. “Over the course of the year, we also partner with the local girls high school to run clinics every fortnight for year eight and nine students.”
With a total of 100 high school students plus MyGolf girls regularly enjoying clinics, the club has secured a sound pathway for girls to progress into the scholarship program.
It is hoped that Samarah’s story of getting into golf in her teens inspires other high school students to follow in her footsteps, give the scholarship program a go, and like Samarah whose aim is to now play to a 4 or 5 handicap by the end of 2023, dream big.
“Golf changes every day – you are never going to get the same round in your life and that makes golf so much fun.” – Samarah Gibson.
Australian Golf Foundation is the national foundation for golf in Australia. The AGF supports Golf Australia’s vision to grow golf by investing in targeted initiatives to inspire all Australians to enjoy and play the game. Visit australiangolffoundation.org.au for further information.
Australian Golf Foundation is thrilled to partner with NEXTGEN Group as the principal partner of the AGF Scholarship Program in 2022, with significant further support provided by Golf Australia, Golf Victoria, Victorian Golf Foundation, Golf Queensland, Golf South Australia, Golf Tasmania, Golf Western Australia, Western Australian Golf Foundation, Golf Northern Territory , Jack Newton Junior Golf, Golf Management Australia, WPGA Tour of Australasia and PGA of Australia, as well as a number of additional generous private benefactors.
The scholarship program has come to fruition thanks to the foresight and generosity of Bonnie Boezeman AO, Director of the Australian Golf Foundation, who originally established the program at Killara Golf Club, NSW.